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The Railway Magazine

Cover of the October 1901 issue. Typical for early 20th century: only the colours, issue number, date and volume changed from month to month
Editor Nick Pigott
Former editors George Augustus Nokes ("G.A. Sekon"), first editor
Categories Railway
Frequency Monthly
Circulation 34,715
First issue July 1897
Company IPC Media
Country United Kingdom
Based in London
Language English
ISSN 0033-8923

The Railway Magazine is a monthly British railway magazine, aimed at the railway enthusiast market, that has been published in London since July 1897. As of 2010 it has been, for three years running, the railway magazine with the largest circulation in the U.K., having a monthly average sale during 2009 of 34,715[1] (the figure for 2007 being 34,661).[2] It is now published by IPC Media, with ISSN 0033-8923, and in 2007 won IPC's 'Magazine of the Year' award.



Colour frontispiece from the June 1903 Railway Magazine: No. 1881 of the London and North Western Railway, a Webb 0-8-0 four cylinder compound.

The Railway Magazine was launched by Joseph Lawrence and ex-railwayman Frank E. Cornwall of Railway Publishing Ltd who discerned an amateur enthusiast readership for some of the material they were then publishing in a railway staff magazine, the Railway Herald. They appointed as its first editor a former auctioneer, George Augustus Nokes (1867-1948), who wrote under the pseudonym "G.A. Sekon". He quickly built the magazine circulation to around 25,000. From the start it was produced in Linotype on good quality paper and well illustrated with photographic halftone and occasional colour lithographic plates.

In 1910, following a dispute with the proprietors, Nokes resigned and started a rival, and very similar, magazine, Railway and Travel Monthly. Both this and The Railway Magazine in 1916 were purchased by John Aiton Kay (1883-1949), proprietor of the Railway Gazette and Nokes's title was renamed Transport and Travel Monthly in 1920 before being amalgamated with The Railway Magazine from January 1923. Apart from this episode, The Railway Magazine had no serious commercial rival in its field until the 1940s. Kay himself served as editor after his predecessor had left for service in World War II. For many years the magazine shared editorial direction with the Railway Gazette, and for periods had officially no editor of its own. From May 1942 to the end of 1949 paper shortages compelled bimonthly publication.

The magazine claims a record for the longest unbrokenly-published series, begun under the title "British locomotive practice and performance" in 1901.[3] Its first writer was the New Zealand-born Charles Rous-Marten (1844-1908). One of those who shared authorship of the series after his death was the Great Eastern Railway engineer Cecil J. Allen (1886-1973) who became sole author from 1911 until succeeded by O. S. Nock in 1958. From 1981 to 2004 the series was written by Peter W.B. Semmens (1927-2007), who also served as Chief correspondent from 1990, notably reporting on the Channel Tunnel construction.[4] Authorship of the series, now called just "Practice & performance", has subsequently been shared by Keith Farr and John Heaton.

The editor originated a series of "Illustrated Interviews" with senior railway officials, the first being Joseph Wilkinson, general manager of the Great Western Railway. Other contributors of features in earlier days included Rev. W.J. Scott, Rev. Victor L. Whitechurch (1868-1933), John S. Hughes, Festiniog Railway manager, Charles H. Grinling, railwayman H.L. Hopwood (1881-1927), and the much-travelled T.R. Perkins (1872-1952). Harold Fayle contributed on Irish railways (for many years it was traditional for the May issue to have a strong Irish content, with the January one having a Scottish slant). A notable series by the locomotive engineer E. L. Ahrons on "Locomotive and train working in the latter part of the nineteenth century" was published between 1915 and 1926 (and much later collected in book format). A very small amount of fiction was included in the magazine’s earliest days.[5] Another feature which has persisted since the early days has been answers to readers' questions, under the title "The why & the wherefore".

Notable photographic contributors of the Interwar period included Maurice W. Earley (1900-82), W. Leslie Good, Frank R. Hebron (d.1980), F.E. Mackay, O.J. Morris (1902-61) (who produced the first colour photograph published in the magazine, in 1938) and H. Gordon Tidey. The cover design, incorporating a photograph, remained substantially unchanged from the early 1900s to the mid 1950s; colour was first introduced there in 1963. In common with most similar magazines, the pictorial content is today largely in colour.

In earliest days current news paragraphs were placed at the back of the magazine under the headings "What the railways are doing" and "Pertinent paragraphs"; from 1987 news was moved to the front. The magazine has also over the years steadily extended its detailed coverage of locomotive and rolling stock movements. It now covers current British railway news, modern traction, some history, heritage railways and general and international railway topics.

Between November 1963 and December 1996, the definite article was omitted from the title, which was "Railway Magazine" during that period. Since November 1983, the word "Magazine" has been in smaller type.


Term Editor
1897 – 1910 "G. A. Sekon" (1867-1948)
1910 – 1930 John F. Gairns (1876-1930)†
1932 – 1942 William Arthur Willox (1891-1970)
1942 – 1949 John Aiton Kay (1883-1949)†
1949 – 1963‡ Hugh Aymer Vallance (1902-1967)
1963 – 1966‡ John H. Court
1970 – 1989 John N. Slater (1928-2004)
1989 – 1994 Peter Kelly (1944- )
1994 – present Nick Pigott (1951- )

died in officenominally Deputy Editor

Online presence

The Railway Magazine has a presence on the National Preservation forums. Members and readers are able to talk and comment directly to members of the editorial staff, providing both feedback and constructive criticism. This has been noted as a valuable source of information for the magazine in order to keep in touch with its readership online in the internet age.


  1. ^ Pigott, Nick (April 2010). Pigott, Nick. ed. "A hat-trick of title wins for your RM". The Railway Magazine (London: IPC Media) 156 (1308): 3. ISSN 0033-8923. 
  2. ^ Pigott, Nick (April 2008). "The best-selling railway title in Great Britain". Railway Magazine 154 (1284): 3. 
  3. ^ Semmens, Peter (July 1997). "Practice & Performance: the story of the longest running railway series in the world". Railway Magazine 143 (1155): 77–80. The September 1930 column was 'pulled' by the editor as being too critical of Nigel Gresley's LNER locomotives – Semmens, A Century of Railways p.13.
  4. ^ "Obituary: Chief correspondent Peter Semmens". Railway Magazine 153 (1273): 12. May 2007. 
  5. ^ Nock, O.S. (1981). Railway Archaeology. Cambridge: Patrick Stephens Ltd. pp. 168–9. ISBN 0-85059-451-0. 


  • Jackson, Alan A. (2002). "George Augustus Nokes: notes for an unwritten biography". Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society 34: 110–15. 
  • Sekon, G.A. (July & August 1947). "The start of The Railway Magazine". The Railway Magazine 93 (570): 197–8. 
  • Semmens, Peter W.B. (1996). A Century of Railways. Sparkford: Oxford Publishing Co. ISBN 0-86093-535-3. 
  • Semmens, Peter and Pigott, Nick (July 1997). "100 not out! – the story of The Railway Magazine". Railway Magazine 143 (1155): 13–19. 

External links



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